Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where Did The Salt Creek Bridge Go?

One of Indiana's oldest wrought iron bridges has seemingly vanished.

The 1876 span over Salt Creek was on an old alignment of State Road 158 just West of Bedford in Lawrence County. The bridge had been abandoned for many years and was slowly being overgrown with foliage, especially on the West side. After much speculation arose about the span's age, documentation was found that dated it to the year of America's centennial. It is now believed to have possibly been the oldest remaining metal truss bridge credited to the Smith Bridge Company. The Toledo, Ohio firm had become one of the largest builders of covered bridges in the Midwest, with many examples of their work still standing in Indiana. They would normally erect their covered spans using the Howe truss or with Robert Smith's own patented truss. In the 1870's, as preferences started to shift from wood to metal, the firm began erecting wrought iron spans normally using either the Pratt or Whipple truss configuration. It wasn't until the early 1880's however that metal spans would surpass their covered counterparts. I have found no other bridges in Indiana or Ohio, past or present, that appear similar to the 1876 structure.

So where did it go? There are several theories out there as to what happened. Did it succumb to flooding in the spring or a tornado that hit the area in May? Or did metal thiefs simply seize the opportunity to make some money? I personally think that the West abutment may have collapsed and caused the bridge to fall into the creek. Pictures have shown the stones in that foundation to be suspect and it has been mentioned that the West foundation is now a pile of rubble. There has been nothing on the internet about the bridge or it's disposition. I would assume now that it has ended up in a scrapyard somewhere...but also hold out some hope that it might have been dismantled and stored to someday be rebuilt.

Whatever the answers might be, as for now Lawrence County and Indiana has apparently lost an irreplaceable 135 year old piece of it's history.

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